Oct. 20, 2005
Home court is becoming a bigger advantage for the Iowa volleyball team thanks to a new program aimed at increasing student attendance.
The Wings program was created before the start of the season. Under the program, students from Reinow, Hillcrest, and Quadrangle residence halls get free admission to games with a punch card. The more punches they collect, the better chance students have at winning prizes throughout the year.
Student attendance had hovered around 20-25 during the past few seasons. This year student attendance has risen to an estimated 100 students per game.
The additional fans have provided an electric atmosphere lacking in the past. Coach Cindy Fredrick is excited about the new bond that her players are forming with enthusiastic coeds from the West side of the river.
“It’s a world of difference” says Fredrick of the atmosphere. “I look at it and say `our student athletes are students and you want the students out supporting your students.’ To me, that’s crucial. It’s fun when the students really get involved. They’re the ones that create the environment for you and create the home court advantage. Obviously, we want the community there and we want families there, but it’s the students who can really get things rocking.”
Fredrick got the idea from a similar program used at her former school, Washington State University. The WSU program started when a dedicated group of boys from the dorms consistently went to games and sat in the front row. Calling themselves the “Super Fans,” the group printed t-shirts, coordinated specific cheers, and even established a web-site declaring their loyalty to Cougar volleyball. The group inspired Fredrick to implement a similar program at Iowa.
“This all came to me sitting there thinking `man, we need to get the students involved and we need to get this thing going like we had at Washington State,'” says Fredrick. “We wanted to get this thing rolling and so far it has been really good.”
Members of the Wings program sit in the front row on three sides of the court. While many students go to the games with friends, some students have even formed cheer sections within the Wings program. For example, the 7th floor of Reinow has created its own section. The group has printed its own shirts, they wear volleyballs on their heads, and they’ve even developed a set cheer for when the opposing team prepares to serve. They’ve changed the lyrics of Twisted Sister’s 1984 hit “We’re Not Going to Take It” to “you’re not going to make it” to distract the opposition.
Fredrick says these cheers can really affect the way an opponent plays. Fredrick is also pleased that the cheering has been positive and not derogatory.
“We want everything to stay positive. Nothing derogatory, nothing nasty,” says Fredrick. “We want the whole environment to be a very collegiate environment. We also have a lot of families that come to our volleyball matches. We want everything to be fun and not classless.”
The Wings program is just one way the volleyball program is trying to improve its home court advantage. The court’s layout was changed before the season so fans could have access to more courtside seating. Fans can literally sit a few feet away from the action now. On Oct. 28, the volleyball program is promoting a “Pack the Place” game against Indiana in hopes of breaking the attendance record of 1,223 set last year against Ohio State. Tickets to “Pack the Place” are just $1 and Hawkeye fans have a chance to win a 2006 Chevy Cobalt.
“We feel if we can get people in the gym a couple times to watch volleyball, we can hook them on it because it’s really a fun sport. It’s a great sport to watch women competing in and I think it has something for everybody,” says Fredrick.
Out of 19 games so far this year, the Hawkeyes have only played five at home. They’ve won three of their home games, including their first win in 16 years over in-state rival Northern Iowa.
Before Fredrick came to Iowa, the volleyball program had endured losing seasons in 11 of the previous 13 years. The Hawkeyes are off to a 13-8 start this season and Fredrick believes the program has developed momentum. As the team continues to win games, Fredrick believes more Hawkeye fans will become interested in Iowa volleyball.
“It has been a long time since Iowa has had good volleyball. I think that kind of turned people away. We understand the concept that people tend to support winning programs. You’ll have your loyal fans there whether you win or lose, but we want people to understand that this program is up and coming and that these kids are very good athletes and we’re really putting on some great competition,” says Frederick.
The Hawkeyes are in-town this weekend for two games. They’ll take on Penn State Friday at 7 p.m. Then they’ll battle Ohio State Saturday night at 7:30.
By Brett Roberts, Iowa Sports Information